A Kicked Cur is an original short story written by Wrychard Wrycthen.
When she had gone, Wayloch and Daralya found themselves suddenly alone with the famed blade. They stared at it for several stoundes more and then at each other, both of them very confused as to what this new development could mean.
Kill an upyr? Wayloch thought to himself as he gazed into Daralya’s beautiful and feminine brown eyes. Would that even be possible? Nothing on Raith could be more dangerous and boisterously foolhardy than that. One could lose one’s head with one carefully placed swipe of an upyr’s talons! So how to be sure that you could kill it first? He looked back at the gleaming cedron-coloured blade. How does it work?, he thought again.
Daralya, as if she could read his thoughts, took his left hand as they straightened back up from their engrossed half-crouch. “She can’t be serious. Only the village idiot wouldn’t know not to engage in battle with an upyr! That’s for the soldiers and sheriffs and other warriors to do. Not us. We’re not even out of school yet.”
“True. That’s why we’re going to have a two-pronged plan.” Renita came up behind them, into the relic lantern’s circle of suffuse light. She was wearing her semi-sheer, light purple noctunic now, and she marched up to them at Daralya’s left side. “I’ve been thinking about it as I changed upstairs. We have to do two things, I reckon. One, we send the sheriffs an anonymous scrip, via messenger. That way they and the Queens will be alerted to the danger. Two, we simply follow them.” At this, she crouched forward once more, kneeling before the metal case, fingers nimbly untying the black cloth tyes. Once this was accomplished, she grasped the hilt firmly in her small and delicate left hand, pulling the blade free from its plush burgundy resting cushion.
She whirled about with it. Though Wayloch and Daralya were well clear already, they each hurriedly took a couple of steps back just to be quite sure. Renita’s ice-blue, frosted and clouded eyes took on a gleaming brightness, a lustre if you will, as she held Tethrayl, The God’s Tooth, aloft.
She swung it through the air. As the long, wafer-thin blade sliced through the very elemental molecules, a soft of volume but keenly high-pitched sound was emitted, almost like the sound of silence itself at the exceedingly rare times in life when everything in your immediate environment is quiet. “That’s where she comes in. It’s legal to carry blades in the city but not firearms. We simply follow them, note their movements… and then meddle. We will be the wrenches in their works. When the sheriffs come to question them, we’ll be there… watching.”
She watched the blade gleam again as she thrust it forward toward an imaginary upyr. “Two teythes long. High-grip hilt. Then there’s this.” Renita relaxed her stance and offered Wayloch and Daralya a view of the pommel’s bottom. There was a slight oval depression there, with a rough surface obviously designed for traction. Wayloch narrowed his sapphire-blue eyes as he gazed at it. “What is it, Rena?”
Renita smiled, a real one, toothy and wide. Her small white teythes caught the lantern’s light. “I was hoping you would ask that. Watch.” Shifting the blade from her left hand to her right, her light purple noctunic swishing, she brought it up, point downwards, pommel-first towards her own heart. She then placed her left thumb into the depression, wrapping both hands around the hilt. “The Pyrian Blade is designed for thrusting, right through the ribs, into a upyr’s blackened heart. It’s made of an alloy that incorporates not only iryn, but also cedron, which is a known magickal metal. Air spells and runics are also engraved upon it. And it’s also kept perpetually sharp via magickal means. Sharp enough to take an upyr’s head clean off… which won’t necessarily kill one, but it’ll sure be out of commission for awhile, you can bet on that.”
Daralya was awed. Her eyes took on a cast of pure childish delight for a moment. “So we can follow them… but won’t pappa know it’s missing? And for that matter, how do you know all of this?”
Renita smirked now, lowering her weapon. “Pappa never looks at this stuff anymore. Believe me, I know. And I know so much because, again, Darry, I actually listen to our father, unlike you. Also, I, you know, talk to the old wives.”
Wayloch grunted in obvious sarcasm. “Really, Rena? The old wives? Who does that anymore. Gossip. You can’t believe a word these old townie hags say, honestly-”
Renita turned the razor sharp blade in his direction, and his words trailed off in volume in a real hurry, even though the point was a good three teythes away from his hairy little chest. Renita was smirking again. “You’d be surprised how knowledgeable a few of our elderly female neighbours might be. They’re older than us and they’ve seen a lot, heard a lot. Listening to them has been invaluable. Taking tea with them. Walking their canii for them. You’d be surprised what a young lady such as myself might pick up about the state of realm and world affairs, right here in our very neighbourhood on Bryne Way.” She lowered the blade until it pointed at the raithen floor, and Wayloch relaxed considerably.
After that, he looked down for a moment, thinking. Raising his gaze again, Wayloch watched Renita begin play-swinging the blade again at her leisure. “Speaking of picking things up, Rena, suppose you tell me about Rouchol now. You said later, well now its crahlun later. What happened to you two in Rouchol that could cause nightmares? I want to know, I mean it.” At this, he regarded Daralya with a serious look of concern for her well being. She smiled slightly, squeezing his hand.
Renita stopped slashing and paused for a few secunds; the gleam of delight left her frosted gaze and was replaced by a look of quizzical seriousness. The line of determination etched itself anew between her light brown brows. Placing the blade back into its runic-etched case, she began to twist the tye-tyes that secured it therein. She spoke. “Well, as I had said, we used to live there before we came here. About an annum and a half ago, we were both enrolled at the same school, much like we are here in Deskordin. However, Rouchol is much more rural, so their educational standards are…” She paused here slightly. “… a bit less stringent, if you will.”
Renita then closed the case, taking a few stoundes to study the markings on its top. “To make a short story long, they didn’t care whether we showed up or not, it was that casual. They wouldn’t even bother telling your merre and pappa that you didn’t show. Just nothing, no caring. So of course, me being me, I pressured Darry into playing hooky with me one day. It wasn’t easy, but she eventually agreed to tag along. So anyway, the two of us kinda kicked stones down the path on the road away from the school and talked the kruk, about rumours and gossip and silly schoolcur stuff.” Renita’s hand found the last buckle closure and did it up; she picked the case up off the raithen floor and placed it back in the wood and iryn chest, carefully placing random objects on top of it. Then she closed the chest carefully with her right hand, locking it with a twist of her left. The rusted keyring went back into her noctunic’s kangaroo-type pocket.
She continued. “So anyway, that’s how it started. It was all very innocent. Just us little curs goofing off and being silly. Darry was kinda stiff at first, as she always is-” Here she smirked once more and turned to face Daralya, who answered her back with a stuck-out, pink little tongue through her lips, like a razz. Renita smirked even more and went on. “But anyways, we started trying to think of something to do, someplace we could go hang out for the mid-dague. And of course, the idea we finally latched upon was also the worst possible idea imaginable, us being even more young and crahlun stupid than we are now, which is a lot, so… yeeeah, we decided upon The Shunned Shack.” Renita edged a bit closer to the relic lantern and sat down with her back resting upon the mid-sized wooden chest that held Tethrayl within itself. Daralya began to sit too, and Wayloch quickly followed suit, as he and she were still holding hands. “I don’t know, Darry, do you want to tell some?”
Wayloch looked to Daralya, who gave a little nod. She could see the effect that this story was having on her little sister and wanted to share the burden as much as possible. So she began to tell. “In Rouchol, in the northwestern section of that northwestern town, there is an old, dilapidated but inhabited shack just slightly outside of town and surrounded by two sets of fencing and a low stone wall. In a township as small as Rouchol is, everyone knows everyone, and thus everyone knew about The Shunned Shack, and everyone dreaded it, and everyone avoided it like a red plague. They did this because it was considered a haunted place, and an evil place, and it was reputed that one could become ill with curse just by looking at it for too long. Rena’s favorite method of research, the old wives-” Now it was Renita’s turn to razz Daralya with an equally pink little tongue. And Daralya’s turn to smirk. She continued. “… they had told her much about what was said about this supposedly cursed place. What they had told her was that a witch lived there. And what was more, they said that this particular witch was special; that she practiced a magickal art called Desanguignol, The Theatre of Blood. It’s a very ancient and obscure sort of magick that is concerned primarily with the manipulation and control of blood and flesh; they said that its users are consumed by it, corrupted completely until there is no more good left in them, only the need to dominate and vengeful urges.”
Wayloch stopped her there with a hand on her right forearm. “I’m sorry, Darry. I don’t mean to interrupt, but… so this is what Rena meant by ‘blood witch’? You think this ‘Gwen’ could be one of these magick users who are totally evil?”
Daralya nodded, almost sadly. “The old wives also told Rena that the power of the Desanguignol user comes from a tome, a book, that is the main goal of every one of them, since the beginning, thousands of annum ago. This ‘Dark Book’, this evil tome, is called the Sanguinalechron, and if a blood witch can somehow locate it, she can become the most powerful individual imaginable for a time. Well, until she is put down by someone or something.”
Renita chimed in at this point. “Mind you, Wally, I only half-believed any of this before that fateful day. I thought the old wives were pulling my leg, but… I guess now it was all true.” She shrugged her tiny shoulders, resting back on one hand with her legs folded on the ground in front of her for balance.
Suddenly Daralya took in a breath at a rush. Wayloch and Renita both quickly looked to her face, finding an odd, frightened expression on it. Daralya’s lower lip trembled as she added: “… Rena. Gwen… she… actually mentioned the book. I forgot to tell you. She knows where it is and they’re gonna let her see it!”
Renita leaned back forward, paling a little. Even Wayloch was taken aback, and he had heard it before as plainly as Daralya had. “Where did she say it was? Because her insane scheme has a much, much better chance of succeeding with the advanced spell-lore within the evil tome. Ach crahl, this changes everything.” Renita’s face fell into her left hand, shielding her ice blue eyes as she thought to herself briefly.
Daralya answered her, breathing relatively normally again. “It is bad, Rena. She told the upyr that the Leutharians have it at their temple, which is to the southwest somewhere, I don’t know where exactly. She said they would not only grant her access to it, but also that they would help in her quest to raise Leuthlaren! Can you imagine?” Here, she bit her lower lip slightly to stop it from trembling again. “The spell-lore in the book is said to include spells to raise draguyres… to then change them into upyrs… even into weyres! They say the first dragores were created by the blood witches and mages, each formed from the corpses of twelve draguyres, animating one male and one female to propagate the species. It’s a tremendously powerful magickal art, Wally! We can’t let her near The Dark Book!” Daralya was becoming nearly hysterical again by this point, her raven hair falling into her face.
Wayloch put his left arm around her small shoulders and caressed her left face with his right index finger in a somewhat vain attempt to calm her. Her off-white tunic was disheveled and kind of hanging off at the right shoulder. Wayloch then laid his head into her right neck, nuzzling and finally kissing it. “We won’t, Darry. We won’t let her near it. Calm down. Calm… down.”
Renita just watched, but her face was full of concern. “It’s probably all true. The wives also said that the true practitioner of Desanguignol could from time to time supposedly raise evil shades from Sheogol itself. These shades, The Drolls, are what they put into these bodies to create and animate the first Dragores. To function as their brains. Very powerful magick indeed. Anyways, to make a long story short, we went to The Shunned Shack for the sheer Sheogol of it. Again, younger and stupider. After we passed the town limits to the northwest, the path narrowed and forest was on both sides. Darry and I walked, just teasing each other as we always do, when a clearing opened up and the Shack came into view. We had never seen it, of course. And the strange thing was, over the course of many minuets, as we walked towards it, I could indeed feel a sort of nausea growing and growing in my stomach. A queasiness. I looked over to my left after awhile and Darry was holding her hand to her stomach, as if it was hurting her too.”
Daralya was nodding. “It was. Seriously. Matter of fact, even thinking about it makes it almost hurt now.” She put her left hand on her stomach and looked at Wayloch, face frowning and eyes narrowing in a little plea. His right hand covered hers, he kissed her right cheek quickly, and then he spoke.
“So why did you continue?” Wayloch’s features contorted a little, his anger rising at even the thought of Daralya in pain.
Renita snorted a bit. “Why? I told you, younger and dumber. I have no idea, really. Curiousity killed the felis, they say, and before you knew it, we were at the end of the path. The two sets of fencing were in utter disrepair, and the shack itself was a joke, just an utter blight on the landscape in the middle of a small glade of dark brown and green trees. Its roof was falling in, and what had once been a small porch had holes in it and was missing one of the three stairs that led up to it. A very sad picture indeed…”
Daralya took up the tale once again. Wayloch watched her with a sort of lovesick glow as she spoke, regardless of its grimness. Her dark brown eyes took on a faraway look, as if she was reliving this segment of the past, and wasn’t currently still in the basement at all. “To really make a ‘long story short’, Rena was in a very carefree, silly, boisterous mood that day. The fences were a joke. We stepped over the low, hewn stone wall and gazed at The Shunned Shack. Its atmosphere of dread and malevolence was amazing. The sheer instinct to turn and flee away from it could be felt at every stund. Rena began to giggle like a cur and jerk on my left arm, saying we should knock on the rotting, broken door and see if the witch answered, then run off before she could react. I said no, of course not, that’s the most rediculous idea ever, but before I knew it, she was dragging me towards that horrible place and I didn’t have the willpower to resist, I guess.”
Renita snorted a little again, this time slightly louder. “Dragging? Oh come on, Darry, you were as curious as I. The place is a legend, really, in Rouchol. Notorious. So we crept up the walk, which was really just dirt and random stones with grass on either side; it was dark brown and wilted, and there weren’t any plants save weeds, which were plentiful. We reached the steps, with the middle one missing, and were careful to step over it. Once on the porch, I grabbed Darry’s left arm in my right hand again for reinforcement-”
Daralya smiled. “Courage. You were as terrified as I, Rena. Mur Rayl, you are amazing.”
Renita beamed back at her half-sister. “Indeed. Courage. However, I guess it was kind of a dare I had concocted for us, and I felt we had to go through with it. Darry was crahlun rooted to the spot in fear, and my left arm was shaking like a leaf as I raised it to the rickety grey wooden door and knocked, twice, quickly in succession… and sure enough, several secunds later there was a muffled noise inside the place, like something falling over on a hard surface. I think, looking back on it, that we had gotten it into- well, ok, maybe I had only gotten it into my head that we’d have time to run away fast enough. Buuut… as it turns out, we didn’t. The door swung outward about halfway, we jumped back, and there she was. Old Grenall Gardner stepped out.”
At this, Wayloch percieved Daralya shaking under his arm. He held her a bit tighter and inquired of her directly, in a soft and tender tone. “It was another blood witch? What was she like?”
Daralya looked back at him. Her raven-tressed bangs had fallen into her eyes a little bit again. Wayloch pushed them back aside as he listened to her speak. “Well, she was robed and hooded in a garment greyer than the house even. The remnants of an ancient housedress were visible underneath, stained and yellowed. Her fingernails hadn’t been trimmed in years, it seemed, they were very long and some of them sharp-looking. What hair I saw was a whitish-grey, flowing around the sides of the hood. And underneath her long bangs were her crahlun eyes, a dark burgundy, the color of congealed sanguinol. I had never seen their like before.”
Now it was Wayloch’s turn to shiver. “Ach Crahl! That must have been terrifying.”
This time Rena snorted and smirked simultaneously, no mean feat. Her frosted, cloudy and ice blue eyes were aglow with her reminicience. “No, Wally, no, no. You don’t know yet. The most terrifying thing wasn’t just her eyes. Her blood-red eyes. It was what she said, Wally. It’s haunted me to this very day. And even when we moved away from Rouchol, it’s followed me, until finally we came here. She said only one sentence, closed the door on us, and we bolted like felii until we got home, just like tonight.”
Wayloch got that quizzical look again, his eyebrows pointed downward at the outer ends. He held Renita’s eyes with his own sapphire-blue ones, as if they were conferring for a stund telepathically. They weren’t, however, and he just blurted it out without much thought.
“Well… what could she possibly have said that was so frightening?”
At this, Renita became deadly serious. Now her eyes held his, and they were more clouded and unsettled within their retinas than ever. Her mouth became a short, white line with nary a trace of smile, as if she had never worn one in her life. Then she answered, in a short monotone voice that was somehow very cold.
“She looked me dead in the eyes, as we are doing now, smirked at me and said ‘Ah, you’ve come back then’, before shutting the door.”